THE transfer of emergency medical and critical care from Hartlepool will start next week.
Centralisation of the services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, will begin on Monday.
It is after local national health commissioners for Hartlepool and East Durham voted in favour of the move after doctors raised safety concerns about working at Hartlepool hospital.
It means from Monday people in Hartlepool, Peterlee, Easington and Sedgefield who become very unwell will be referred to the University Hospital of North Tees if they need to go to hospital and will be taken by ambulance if necessary.
In emergencies, when someone is choking, having chest pain, blacking out or suffering blood loss, they should continue to ring 999.
The changes will take place over two weeks and it is expected that by October 17 the majority of patients will be transferred to North Tees without using Hartlepool.
The critical care unit will be the last department to move.
Julie Gillon, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We recognise that this means further to travel for carers and family members who wish to visit them in hospital.
“As such over the past few months we have been working with the local councils, transport providers, Healthwatch and the clinical commissioning groups to develop better support for people who don’t have direct bus services near to where they live.”
Health chiefs say the changes are being made in the interests of safety and it is important they are in place before the pressures of the winter weather starts.
A travel plan to help people affected includes additional shuttle buses, the creation of a volunteer driver scheme and discounts with the trust’s taxi provider Twenty3 Taxis for patients and relatives.
More car parking is also being provided at the North Tees site.
Patients in Hartlepool, Peterlee, Easington and Sedgefield who need planned surgery but also have other health conditions that may need critical care after their operation, will also be referred to North Tees.
But a new 30-bed unit at Hartlepool will be created for their recovery.
For more information about transport help ring (01429) 522550.